For New Age music in Korea, a star is born

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For New Age music in Korea, a star is born

New Age music is a genre that is quietly gaining popularity in Korea. Unlike Korean or Western pop music, New Age music doesn't sell millions of albums overnight. Rather, New Age sells steadily over time.

Even though Korean pop has been competitive with pop in terms of market share over the last few years, in New Age, foreign musicians dominate the charts. Foreign artists George Winston from the United States, Yanni from Europe and Yuki Kuramoto from Japan sell well, but no Korean musicians can be found amoung the top sellers.

This could soon change, however, as many Korean musicians are jumping into the market. Of these artists, Ray Jung is worth keeping an eye on. A graduate of the French National School of Music, he released his first album last week, titled "Memory of the Day."

Born in 1970, Jung went to France and entered the National Classical Music Institute, majoring in conducting. After graduating, he came back to Korea in 1993 and completed his military service. Since then he has composed music for many commercials.

"'Memory of the Day' is the album I've been working on since I returned from France," Jung said. "It took a year to produce, and finally I get to show it to the world."

The 10 tracks on "Memory of the Day" are in the New Age vein, and Jung shows his talent in composition and arranging the music as well. But he doesn't stop there.

"I wanted to embody something Korean in New Age music," he said.

This effort to create something new has resulted in a dynamic edge, with room to grow and develop.

Such ambition shows most in one of his songs, "Jung Eup Sa," which is probably the most Korean you can get. "Jung Eup Sa" is actually a poem the people who live during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) used to sing. It is originally a poem about a woman praying to the moon for her husband's safety. For listeners who want a feel of Korean sentiment this song will definitely hold appeal.

Jung is a veritable one-man band, playing most of the instruments on the album and producing it himself. He did need help, however, in presenting various Korean classical instruments, such as the large flute, Korean fiddle, and the narrow flute, throughout the album.

The active use of the sae flute helped create a sound quite different from other New Age music.

"I am worried," Jung said, "that my doing New Age music might make the true colors of Korea fade."

He is also dissatisfied with some of the technical aspects of the album. But in the future, he hopes to learn to mix better.

On the album, the musical star Kim Ji-hyun participated. She has played Queen Min in the musical "The Last Empress," and last year she sang at the singer Jo Yong Pil's concert at the Seoul Arts Center. Her clear and angelic voice can be heard on two songs on "Memory of the Day."

by Choe Jae-hee

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